Hockey’s biggest rivalry! The 8-6 slugfest from February!
Make no mistake, there was palpable excitement for this Bruins/Habs showdown in Montreal that, while it wouldn’t decide the Northeast Division by any stretch of the imagination, it was certainly going to be a huge boost to whichever team emerged victorious.
Both teams had been off since Saturday night, and had ample time to let the importance of this game marinate. And because this game was so vitally important, Claude Julien, who knows all too well about how much of a pressure-cooker Montreal can be, decided to give the nod to…
Now look, I understand. Rask is a very good NHL goaltender who would be very well-regarded if he could get a bit more time. But the problem is he’s playing alongside soon-to-be-two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas. The same Tim Thomas who has allowed just six goals in his last four games — three of which were against teams that were top-5 in the league, and the other was against a team that hadn’t lost in regulation since mid-January.
It stood to reason that in a game with this much admitted gravity, you would give Thomas the start. Simple. But instead he went with Rask for reasons currently known only to him and probably his two netminders.
It’s interesting to note, too, that Rask has been wildly inconsistent in his brief career against Montreal, and especially at le Centre Bell, where in three appearances he has given up six, none and three. But hey, I’m not an NHL coach and I’m not around these guys every day, so what do I know, right?
Well as anyone with a brain could have predicted, the Canadiens fans in attendance were well up for the game, and immediately found themselves occupying a large chunk of real estate in Rask’s head. He was never at any point in the game ready to face the shots from an actual NHL team, as he gave up rebound after rebound and allowed two softies and an unscreened slapper en route to coughing up four on just 26.
This was decidedly one of his “ugly” games in Montreal, and I’m sure he’d say the same.
But he was not in any way helped by the Bruins’ obvious desire to dictate play to the point of being overly physical, though the Canadiens were loathe to be drawn into such a game in their own rink. It didn’t work when Johnny Boychuk tried to line up PK Subban in the neutral zone and had to suffer through a marathon fight against Ryan White in which the young Bruin got his lunch solidly handed to him. It didn’t work the rest of the night. It just ended up with guys out of position and blowing assignments.
So basically, Claude Julien didn’t make a good decision all night. That’s okay, buddy. Plenty of time to make up the ground lost to the Flyers and injury-addled Penguins tonight. That three-point gap between you and the Habs is positively luxurious compared to the none between you and the hard-charging Caps, and two between you and the Bolts.
And it’s not like you’re gonna be missing your captain and best defenseman for the next five or six games either. … What? Oh. That’s “unfortunate.”
Maybe you shoulda just started Tank like everyone on Earth figured you would.
Ottawa 2, New Jersey 1
So that has to be it for the Devils NOW, right? Everyone was piling off the bandwagon last time they lost, and that wasn’t to the worst goddamn team in the league. Shameful stuff outta Jacques Lemaire’s guys tonight. Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t even do anything. They deserve this fate for making everyone talk about them like they could make it into the playoffs. (I thought they could make it.)
New York Islanders 4, Toronto 3 (OT)
Another team that’s dead and gone now. Done forever. Take it to the bank. One regulation loss is worrying. Two is doomsday material. The good news is that no one on the Islanders tried to decapitate an opponent tonight. Progress.
Philadelphia 4, Edmonton 1
Oh hooray hooray the Flyers are the best team in the East again having defeated their mighty Western enemies with alarming ease. Shots through one were 16-1, no joke. Even a stiff like Bobrovsky can get in front of one shot. The nightmare may not yet be over, because they looked pretty bad in the latter two-thirds of the game.
Pittsburgh 3, Buffalo 1
James Neal had a goal. James Neal had an assist. You can all get off his goddamn back now. Thanks.
Florida 3, Chicago 2
Yeah, that happened. It usually does when your starter gives up three goals on the first eight shots he faces.
Minnesota 5, Colorado 2
This just in: the Avs’ goaltending situation is reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllly bad. Interestingly, though, it seemed like only one group of guys had a really bad night for Colorado. Unfortunately, that was their top line, as Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk and Brandon Yip were a combined minus-9.
Vancouver 4, Coyotes 3 (OT)
Crazy game. Alex Burrows missed a penalty shot in overtime. Didn’t even get the puck away, actually. So Dan Hamhuis scored the game-winner like a minute later. No fuss no muss. Vancouver still the undisputed best team in hockey, even if the results have been a little dicey of late.
San Jose whatever, Nashville whatever
I’m going to bed.